Before you head outdoors to enjoy Boulder's 154 miles of trails and its diverse and sensitive natural areas, remember these seven essential responsible recreation tips for visiting Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks.

Come explore, enjoy and care for our remarkable Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks! Discover your own journey into nature, marvel at the wonders that surround you and connect to something greater than yourself.

Before you head outdoors to enjoy Boulder's 155 miles of trails and its diverse and sensitive natural areas, remember to keep these responsible recreation hiking tips in mind:

1) Know Before You Go

Learn more about Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks before you step on the trail:

  • Explore Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks trails and trailheads without ever leaving your computer. Find just the right trail by searching for trail length, elevation gain and difficulty.
  • Check our online trail map to see which trails are closed for repairs, maintenance and emergencies.
  • Download the Boulder Area Trails app to see other trails beyond the City of Boulder.
  • Know city fire regulations. All ignition sources – including fireworks, smoking, campfires – are prohibited on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks lands.
  • Don't forget to know the current fire risk. Check and follow all fire restrictions and fire bans instituted by local authorities
  • Understand open space rules, including dog leash and glass/alcohol regulations. Glass containers and alcohol – including beer, wine and spirits – are prohibited on city open space.
  • Learn more about what to do when you see a bear or a mountain lion.
  • Follow Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
A Picture of a Bear on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

Visit to learn more about Open Space and Mountain Parks and the sensitive natural areas it manages. Photo by Tevis Morrow.

2) Plan and Prepare

Planning your visits is critical for an enjoyable and safe outdoor experience. Don't forget to:

  • Download a trail map and carry a print map.
  • Create a plan for adverse weather or emergencies, such as fires and floods.
  • Know where you are going and consider alternative routes you can take to leave the area.
  • Create a backup plan. Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks' trailheads are often full during the weekends.
  • Look at the weather forecast. Colorado weather is highly unpredictable.
  • Charge your phone.Make sure your phone is charged in case you need assistance or there is an emergency. But remember: Cell service may be extremely limited in mountain locations.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Trails can be slick from snow and ice during the winter months. To avoid an accident on the trail, use strap-on boot chains for extra traction.
  • Bring food and water for longer hikes. Don't forget to bring water for your dogs!
  • Don't forget sunscreen. Boulder's high elevation can cause uncomfortable sunburns.
  • Tell people where you're going.
Photo of the snow-covered Boulder Flatirons after a winter snow storm.

Plan your visits to open space. Learn about Open Space and Mountain Parks trails and trailheads. Check our interactive trail map to view current closures. Photo by Phillip Yates.

3) Enjoy and Protect the Land

Enjoy your time outdoors! But remember: You also have a responsibility to protect land, wildlife, water and plants. Numerous small disturbances can quickly harm sensitive natural resources and have a lasting impact on shared public lands.

  • Remember to Leave No Trace and be prepared to pack out all trash and dog waste when receptacles are full or not available. And give back to the land we all love: Volunteer for Open Space and Mountain Parks.
  • Remember to stay on trail and walk through mud. If you need to step off trail, step onto a bare spot or rock. Once others pass, immediately step back on the path. When people walk off trail around mud, they widen trails and damage nearby plants. Walking off trail also increases unmaintained “social” trails that can reduce – or fragment – large habitat areas that many wildlife species need to thrive.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and read signs. Do not go off trail in sensitive habitats or in locations designated as wildlife closure areas.

Trees on Boulder Open Space

Enjoy and protect shared open space. Help us sustain these lands for future generations. Photo by Phillip Yates.

4) Be Courteous and Inclusive

People visit trails and public lands for many reasons, including emotional and physical well-being and spending time with friends and family members. Visitors of all identities and abilities deserve respect and courtesy while recreating outdoors.

Autumn scenery of Sawhill Ponds and the Boulder Mountain Backdrop

People have different reasons for visiting open space. Remember to be courteous on the trail. Photo by Ann G. Duncan.

5) Know Your Limits

Boulder's elevation and its dry conditions can take a toll on long and strenuous hikes. Boulder's steep and rugged trails also can be challenging – even for those who visit open space every day.

Consider the type of activity you are planning and don't take unnecessary risks. Be aware and don't give into distractions on the trail. And don't forget: Colorado also has highly unpredictable weather. If bad weather begins to appear, reconsider your plan and head back home.

Picture of Lightning on Boulder Mountains

Don't take unnecessary risks when visiting open space. Remember to look at weather forecasts before heading outdoors. Photo by Terry Wilkes.

6) Stay Alert

  • Stay alert when on the trail. Be aware of your surroundings. Always stay focused on what’s in front and around you as the outdoors are changing environments and natural hazards may be present. Call 911 if there is an emergency, such as a fire starting or if you see smoke. Try to text 911 if you don’t have enough cell service to get a phone call through.
South Mesa in fall

If you need to step off trail, step onto a bare spot or a rock. Once someone passes, step back on to the trail immediately. Photo by Anne G. Duncan.

7) Yield to Others

Remember these guidelines on how to yield to other trail users:

  • Yield to People Going Uphill. It takes a lot more energy to go uphill than downhill, so help them keep that momentum going!
  • Everyone Yields to Horses. Don’t forget to give horses a friendly “hello” especially when approaching from behind to let them know you’re there.
  • Bikers Yield to Hikers and Horses. Colliding with anyone on the trail would ruin everyone’s day.

Don’t forget to:

  • Slow down
  • Be prepared to stop
  • Say something like “on your left”
  • Pass safely
A triangle sign showing how and when trail users need to yield to others